Sunday, May 29, 2011

SNAPSHOT: Remembrances Set in Stone

Memorial Day weekend, eastern Kentucky:

In a tiny mountainside cemetery, an elderly couple is carefully adjusting fake flowers set around a stone in a far, shady corner of the place. Each has a cane in one hand and a grandchild by the arm on the other side as they make their way across the rough, tree-root banded ground. From the older stone to a newer one, they wander. Before the flowers are adjusted and a bit of moss scraped off the stone, tears flow down wrinkled cheeks.

Neither of the pair takes the time to wipe away the salty ruins of grief, but works on through it. A veil of memories where a show of old memories plays without ceasing is that fall of fluid. Waters across the sands of time, never wasted but held precious and given as a gift to the grave.

In the place I was born to, these mountains and hills, no one in their right mind denies real grief, even if there is more emotional cause than real. Speak not, after all, ill of the dead, for they are beyond reproach. For around 300 years, graves have been tended here with love, respect, and perhaps no small amount of angry acceptance at the lack of immortality humans suffer from. Fatalism and the glow of a passion beyond death live long and well in our people.

We are a gift to ourselves, though we too often know it not at all. Precious: heritage.

I have family scattered across the United States, from Virginia coastal lands to Oregon's opposite. A good many of them, I never knew and never will know. Yet each of them, like the grains of sand on a beach or, in our case, ancient mountainside, is in some way a part of me and of mine. All things are related... and so are all people.

Looking in on a graveyard full of people in their Sunday or holiday best, sweating without shame, and indeed smiling, laughing, or crying and leaning on someone, in the heat of a day just leaving spring for summer is like looking on a mosaic of time passing before eyes bewildered by all that has taken place to date. It's a swirl, a twisting of memories into a braid stronger than the parts of that whole when taken alone. It's a light in the darkness of things past, mysteries let die and buried beneath stones cold even when the sun shines hot.

Each and every person delving into memories in a graveyard, even a cemetery lit from within by fragrant flowers and fluttering ribbons, will find memories set in stone. Memories that cannot or will not change from where they are set. Time itself needs help to change stone: wind, water, fire.

Or spirit.

Blessings to the mourners, to those left behind to remember and carry on into tomorrow what the mountains hold dear: HIS-story, HER-story... my story... our stories.

Keep the stories alive. They too should have the strength and beauty of stones. Please.